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Kim Erwin

Associate Professor of Healthcare Design and Design Methods & Equitable Healthcare Action Lab Director

Kim Erwin

“Historically, design has been taught and organized around output: interiors, communication, product. I think the modern era is better served by stepping away from output as the focal point. It’s less about the visualization and more about the visualizing. It’s not the user research, it’s the researching. It’s not the prototype, it’s the prototyping.”


Kim Erwin is an Associate Professor of Practice at ID with a focus on Healthcare Design and Design Methods. She also directs ID’s Equitable Healthcare Action Lab. An expert in healthcare design, she applies design methods to complex systems and develops novel solutions to address healthcare’s frontline problems. Specifically, Kim applies human-centered design and communication methods to build teams, identify opportunities, and tailor interventions to real-world settings so as to accelerate adoption by patients and clinical staff.

Kim’s unique contributions include using design methods with users and stakeholders to make real change in healthcare systems. Examples include working with the National Academy of Medicine and its community leaders across the US to develop a new model for measuring community engagement; working with providers, patients, and operations leaders to help University of Chicago Medicine design a new and inclusive hospital-at-home service line; co-leading a grant piloting a tool for low-income, high-risk pregnant women to talk to their obstetricians about prenatal care costs; incorporating design methods into a federal grant to learn how to help hospitals across the country adopt new practices for COPD patients discharged home; and founding the Institute of Healthcare Delivery Design at UIC. Kim has a Master of Design (MDes) from ID and a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy and logic from Loyola University Chicago.

Activities at Illinois Tech

Kim is Director of the Equitable Healthcare Action Lab and a visiting scholar at the University of Chicago Medical Center and its Center for Healthcare Delivery Science and Innovation. She is the only designer to have been a standing member of a scientific review panel for the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). As a professor and leader of several centers dedicated to merging the design and healthcare sciences, Kim has created and delivered curricula tailored for health professionals, health services researchers, medical students, and quality-improvement teams across the United States.

Industry Experience

From 2017 to 2020, Kim served as Associate Director of Population Health Sciences at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC), where she co-founded and co-directed its Institute for Healthcare Delivery Design. In that role, Kim led multidisciplinary teams to bring design methods to clinical trials and to improve care quality and care transitions for multiple conditions. She applied these methods in multiple clinical settings, including Emergency Departments, inpatient units, and outpatient clinics.

On the research side, Kim has been a named investigator on multiple grants since 2013. Some of these have addressed significant equity issues, including working with a community asthma program in collaboration with the Navajo Nation and piloting a tool to promote and facilitate cost conversations with low-income, high-risk women during prenatal care. Led by the University of Chicago, Kim is incorporating design methods into a federally funded grant to learn how to help fifteen hospitals across the country adopt new practices for patients with COPD being discharged home—the first time a design method will be subjected to a randomized trial to understand its effectiveness and its relevance for healthcare improvement.

Kim is also a writer and strategist, with twenty years of experience in innovation consulting. Her book, Communicating the New: Methods to Shape and Accelerate Innovation, describes communication methods that help teams create and diffuse critical knowledge inside organizations.

Speaking and Publishing

Since 2010, Kim has participated in or led more than sixty presentations, panels, and workshops throughout the United States. These engagements include, most recently, “Using Human-Centered Design to Help Medicine Fit Vulnerable Communities,” a presentation at Arizona University’s College of Public Health (October 2020); “Tailoring Interventions to Fit People Using Human-Centered Design,” a workshop at the Veterans Administration in Seattle, Washington (June 2019); and “Conversations on Cost of Care,” a presentation at a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Forum meeting in Princeton, New Jersey (June 2019).

Select Work

Books and Book Sections
Erwin, K. 2013. Communicating the New: Methods to Shape and Accelerate Innovation. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Whitney, P., and K. Erwin. 1994. “Is Theory of Any Use to Designers?” in R. Perlman and V. Magolin, eds., Chicago Graphic Design: The Best of Contemporary Chicago Graphic Design, with Essays on Past and Future Trends. Beverly, MA: Rockport Publishers.

Erwin, K., L. Gerald, R. Kumar, and J.A. Krishnan. 2021. “Methods and Results of Engaging a Participant Advisory Committee for the PrecISE Trial.” The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (in press).

Kim, S., J. Klugman, S. Norell…and K. Erwin. “Improving VTE Prophylaxis Adherence Among Hospitalized Adolescents Using Human-Centered Design.” Journal of Patient Safety and Risk Management (in press).

Erwin, K., V. Fitzpatrick, S. Norell, and M. Gilliam. 2019. “Development of a Framework and Tool to Facilitate Cost-of-Care Conversations With Patients During Prenatal Care.” Annals of Internal Medicine 170 (May 7): (9_Supplement): S62-S69. doi:10.7326/M18-2207

Erwin, K., and J.A. Krishnan. 2018. “Welcome to the Beginning: Delivery Science as a Context for Engaging Design.” Information Design Journal 23, no. 3: 357–359.

Erwin, K., and J.A. Krishnan. 2016. “Redesigning Healthcare to Fit with People: Design Expertise Can Improve Delivery of Care.” BMJ 354 (August 23): i4536.

Erwin, K., and J.A. Krishnan. 2016. “Using Design Methods to Provide the Care that People Want and Need.” Journal of Comparative Effectiveness Research, 5 (1): 13–15. doi:10.2217/cer.15.62

Erwin, K., M.A. Martin, T. Flippin, S. Norell, A. Shadlyn, J. Yang…J.A. Krishnan. 2016. “Engaging Stakeholders to Design a Comparative Effectiveness Trial in Children with Uncontrolled Asthma.” Journal of Comparative Effectiveness Research, 5 (1): 17–30.

Select Grants

2020 National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: Reducing Respiratory Emergent Visits using Implementation Science Interventions Tailored to Setting ($2,499,473)

2020 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Cost Conversations in Routine Prenatal Care ($399,000)
Co-principal investigator

2017 National Institutes of Health: A Community Asthma Program on the Navajo Nation ($8,504,073)